Weekly Consumer Insights: Small Business Impacts & Social Change - June 22


In this week’s Harris Poll Tracker, we gain insights on the fight against racial injustice and its importance to different generations, impacts to small businesses, Corporate America and effects of a potential second wave of coronavirus.


The Great Reset - An overwhelming majority of Americans (89%) believe the pandemic has exposed underlying structural problems and big businesses must ‘reset’ their priorities. Additionally, the opportunity exists for businesses to lead social change.

  • There is a growing broad-based movement for inclusivity: the pandemic has exacerbated racial inequality and this week shows broad support for Black people, the recognition of systemic racism and need for change.
  • Young people are leading the charge – Gen Z/Millennials (82%) and Gen X (81%) are more likely than Boomers (73%) and Seniors (68%) to believe there is systemic racism in America. Additionally, younger Americans have more conviction to fight racial injustice: 70% of Gen Z/Millennials and 64% of Gen X say racial equality will be very important moving forward vs. 59% of Boomers, 53% of Seniors.
  • Companies have a role to play in the movement for racial equality: a majority of Americans (57%) say companies should provide a public statement on Black Lives Matter movement and racial inequality in America.
  • Taking a stand may be uncomfortable in the short term but can pay off in the long run. Negative consumer impressions of Nike have been cut down to just 9% since first taking a stand with Colin Kaepernick. In fact, Nike is the only brand of its peers to see a strengthening during recent years, while brands like Adidas and Under Armour have lost favorability.

Impact of the CARES Act to Small Businesses – By April 6, four in ten small business owners had tried applying for funding, however 1 in 5 were unable to complete the process. Additionally, six in ten feel the loans are difficult to access. This sentiment is reflected in the following operational changes: 46% have reduced employee hours, 40% of business leaders have taken a lower salary for themselves, and 34% have reduced marketing/advertising spend.

  • Although these changes are likely to impact small businesses long-term, some small business owners are making strategic investments:
    • Infrastructure: 46% increased infrastructure to be more virtual, online or contact-less.
    • Employee Investment: 37% are continuing to offer health insurance benefits to laid off or furloughed employees; 37% are offering to pay employees who are not currently working.
    • Community: 37% are donating to or sponsoring local causes for COVID-19 relief; 14% have increased marketing/advertising spend.

*Our friends at the American Sportfishing Association and the National Marine Manufacturers Association have shared resources to help you access small business relief funds and more.

Employee Investment – The current state of the remote workplace has small business leaders planning for the future once the pandemic subsides. 15% of small businesses expect that all of their employees will remain working remotely; 52% of those for whom remote working is a possibility expect that some will remain remote and 33% say none of their employees will stay working remote once the pandemic is over. according to small business leaders, the single biggest challenge to managing your team during the pandemic is maintaining morale (24%).

Corporate America – In the global financial crisis, Corporate America was part of the problem. They are now part of the solution. The corporate reputation seems to be rising across all industries, including pharmaceuticals, financial services and tech. A recent survey reveals the ‘Essential 100’; and a look at the top ten includes (in order): US Postal Service, Clorox, Google, United Parcel Service, Walmart, Amazon, Purell, Microsoft, FedEx and CVS.

America the Patient? – Eight in ten Americans say they are concerned about a second wave of coronavirus. More than 77% say their state has partially reopened and only 59% support their state’s re-opening approach. Women are more cautious than men in terms of wearing PPE in public (46% vs 39% respectively). The nation is coming face to face with a parallel wave of social unrest driven by racial injustice and Corporate America is planning to play a bigger role. Spending power can bring about change and more than 3 in 5 Americans (63%) say they are more likely to buy from companies and brands that contribute to organizations/causes that combat racism. Additionally, over two-thirds (67%) say companies should ensure that the business and clients they work with share similar standards when it comes to combating racial inequality.


Similar trends over the past few weeks; Americans continue to feel stressed and anxious amidst the pandemic and racial injustice protests. How can our industry respond empathetically to these emotions? Carefully and confidently. Americans want authenticity and action. 74% think companies should speak out on covid-19 and 57% say companies should incorporate their views into their marketing and advertising. Be inclusive but do not tokenize; 88% say racial equality is an important issue to them personally. Corporate values MUST be reflected internally first and shared in a meaningful way. Today in Corporate America it’s not about what you say, it’s what you do. Seek out diverse groups (of stakeholders and consumers) AND support and fund them; provide them the opportunity to share their voice and experiences fishing and/or boating. Build trust with new audiences and your traditional customers at the same time by sharing these authentic stories.

RBFF receives these weekly consumer insights from its partners at Colle McVoy. This study was fielded June 6-8 and June 13-15 among a nationally representative sample of 1,969 U.S. adults and 2,032 U.S. adults respectively.

Stay tuned to the RBFF Blog for additional weekly consumer insights related to COVID-19.